By Indrek Kongats
My fascination with archery started at a very young age after seeing what I believe to be the best movie ever made, the 1938, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains. But all of my passion and instruction for archery came from watching Richard Greene as Robin Hood in the 1955 – 1960 television series each week as a youngster, with his merry men robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, shooting the King’s deer in Sherwood forest, doing battle with the Sheriff of Nottingham as a consequence and romancing the beautiful Maid Marian as his reward.
Archery has come a long way since Robin’s long-bow days, but I have yet to see a better archer than him. As I grew older, a new hero emerged in the likes of Fred Bear from Waynesboro, PA. Fred was a bow hunter, bow manufacturer, author and television host. Not only did he hunt whitetails with his bow, but he went after one of the fiercest predators on earth. In one of my favorite outdoor shows, “The American Sportsman” he stalked and killed a great grizzly bear. I have never forgotten his famous quote, “There’s more fun in hunting with the handicap of the bow than there is in hunting with the sureness of the gun.”
Bear Archery, the company Fred founded, produced some of the finest recurve bows in the world, like the Kodiak from 1965. This was the bow to own, a 60” bow with a 44# pull used for big game like bear and moose. Today, it is still very functional and making a resurgence, but is more sought after as a collectible.
The evolution of the bow has come a long way. Once made from a simple sapling growing in the forest, they are now made on high tech machines from aluminum, magnesium alloy, or carbon fiber with cams and pulleys that take away the work once associated with drawing a 40 plus pound bow, holding it true until the arrow is released. These compound bows make hunting easier and, with greater killing power and accuracy, make it more humane in the hands of the less experienced.
A very good friend of mine, David Townsend, has hunted deer from New York State and elk in Colorado with his compound bow. Dave was kind enough to take the time to share some of his archery tips:
Technique: it’s all about your grip (loose and relaxed) and not trying to hold the pin squarely on the bullseye. Let the pin float as you slowly squeeze the release and when it releases it should be a surprise. The object is to get that floating pin to waver in smaller and smaller circles as you aim.
Training and Practice: I start shooting in June pretty seriously, but only shoot a few arrows at a session. I start by spending an entire week of shooting with my eyes closed just to get the aiming and release procedure to be natural and relaxed. I will then periodically shoot a session with my eyes shut at close range. I acquire the target and get appropriate pin on that spot then close my eyes and go through the shot sequence. It is pretty amazing how tight the groups are.
Range and Distance: In terms of distance, I hardly ever shoot at a deer at more than 30 yards, but I routinely practice at 50 and 60 just to improve my consistency. It is also fun to shoot long distances so practice is not all work with no play.
Hunting Tip: My biggest archery tip is: you can’t beat a deer’s sense of smell! Second is: don’t overhunt a stand.
Establish several stand sites so you can rotate spots and properly play the wind. Whether you like to hunt a long bow like Robin Hood, a recurve like Fred Bear or a compound like Dave Townsend, the choice is yours and I’m sure with enough practice and patience you will be as good as any one of them.
Here is another fitting quote from the late Fred Bear, “If you are not working to protect hunting, then you are working to destroy it.”
Please remember that hunters are some the most conservation-minded individuals. The tax revenue from licenses and tags go to multiple non-profit organizations, including state management of public lands for everyone to enjoy.